Football Links: Two Defensive Midfielders and Roy Hodgson


Casemiro is still fundamental to Real Madrid’s success. By Sid Lowe:

One day early in Zidane’s first spell as Real Madrid manager, Casemiro knocked on his door. He hadn’t played yet — five games had passed — and he wasn’t happy. Play me, he said, please. Zidane looked at him, told him to calm down and said that once he started playing, he would never stop. Zidane was right, so much so that it became almost a running joke. After one game recently, Casemiro was asked if he was ever going to rest. By way of a response, he offered that cherubic smile he has and said something about how he didn’t need it. Zidane didn’t think so, either. You only ever leave Casemiro out to ensure that you can put him in.

Wilfred Ndidi snatches the ball winning crown from Nogolo Kante. By Ryan O’ Hanlon

the tactical beauty of having an omnipotent ball winner player such as Ndidi in your squad is that he allows you to shove an extra attacker onto the field without losing much (if any) defensive solidity.

Roy Hodgson reflects on his time at Inter, and Javier Zanetti. From The Coaches Voice

Javier wasn’t even signed to be the big player he became – he made himself into that. He had an incredible professionalism and desire to make the very best out of himself. Whatever his coaches or fitness coaches wanted him to do, he was going to show he could do it.

Blaise Matuidi’s surprising admirer


Blaise Matuidi has many admirers. Us and Carlo Ancelloti among them.

But he also has a surprising fan boy.

Pep Guardiola.

At first glance, Blaise doesn’t possess the ideal qualities of a Pep Guardiola player. His technique on the ball can be clumsy. His passing range is limited. Yet Blaise still managed to leave an impression on Pep.

Former Clairefontaine youth coach Francisco Filho shares the story:

We had just finished a tournament in Las Palmas. We won. Pep Guardiola was there, on holiday. Alongside his brother, who was organising the tournament, we dined together. He saw our match and he said to me: ‘When I will be manager (he was still playing in Qatar at the time), I want a player like your #6.’ Who was it? Blaise Matuidi.”

Shout out to Get French Football News for originally sharing the story.

Beppe Furino – The Timeless Water Carrier


Every team needs this player.

State side we call them defensive midfielders, or holding midfielders. Back in my U-10 parks and recreation soccer days we called them stoppers.

In Italy they’re called the Mediano, the water carrier.

John Foot describes the Italian interpretation of this player in his book Winning at all Costs: A Scandalous history of Italian Soccer:

In order for the skillful players to have the space with which to work, somebody had to get the ball, and give it to them. The playmakers couldn’t be expected to do the running that was needed, the dirty work, the pressing. Every team had at least two players of this type, if not three.

Winning at all Costs: A Scandalous history of Italian Soccer, John Foot. pg 146, 147

Juventus of course, had whom many consider to be the greatest mediani of all – Beppe Furino.

Beppe, to the right, in the black and white Juventus stripes

Juventus specialized in mediani, and the greatest of all was Beppe Furino in the 1970s and 1980s. Little Furino, from Palermo in Sicily, ran himself into the ground in order to get the ball to a succession of playmakers such as Franco Causio, Liam Brady and Michel Platini. Yet Furino was not a one-dimensional player. Team-mate Marco Tardelli called him ‘the most tactically intelligent player I have ever seen. He was always close to the ball.’

Winning at all Costs: A Scandalous history of Italian Soccer, John Foot. pg 148

A mediano doesn’t revel in personal glory. But their trophy cabinets are flush with silver.

The life of a mediano was thus a melancholic one. They were always destined to be the supporting act, straight men, water carriers. They could never be stars and would remain forever in the shadow of their more skillful colleagues. Furino won a record eight titles with Juventus in the 1970s and 1980s, but is rarely mentioned in accounts of those years.

Winning at all Costs: A Scandalous history of Italian Soccer, John Foot. pg 148

Beppe Furino and water carriers like him are tactical survivors. No matter the era, they remain relevant.